Whether you’re a visitor or a local, visiting museums in Cape Town is a fun and necessary experience. Education, entertainment and culture collide in these thoughtful spaces.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, science or something niche, Cape Town will most likely have somewhere for you to visit and learn.
Here’s your ultimate guide:
Founded in 1825, the Iziko South African Museum is our country’s oldest museum. The exhibitions boast more than 1.5 million specimens accumulated over 200 years.
Going through the museum, you will see ancient fossils and stone tools, rock and meteorite samples, as well as marine and wild animal displays and features.
Iziko operates twelve national museums, including the South African Museum, the Planetarium, the Slave Lodge, the Bo-Kaap Museum and the Castle of Good Hope, which are all included on this list.
Selected Iziko museums are free to enter on commemorative days, including Human Rights Day, Youth Day and Heritage Day.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened at the V&A Waterfront in 2017, and has established a solid and respectable name for itself ever since.
The museum was listed in TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Destinations of 2018.
The building is a former grain silo that underwent development thanks to British architect Thomas Heatherwick, and now houses 6000 square metres of exhibition space.
The museum has 100 galleries, a restaurant area and a Sculpture Garden.
African citizens can enter for free on Wednesdays from 10am to 1pm, and entry is half-price on the first Friday of every month from 4pm to 9pm.
The Norval Foundation, founded by the Norval family, opened in 2018 and has played an important role in expanding our city’s culture and arts scene.
The museum is in the Steenberg wetlands, with gorgeous views of Table Mountain National Park right on its doorstep.
Designed by DHK Architects, the space boasts world-class galleries as well as a sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheatre, research library, restaurant and bar, shop and children’s playground.
The entire space brims with our local culture. The grounds of the sculpture garden were landscaped by Keith Kirsten International with indigenous fynbos, and the Skotnes Restaurant serves traditional South African cuisine.
Entrance is free on every first Thursday of the month.
Also read: Art, music, family and food at the Norval Foundation
18 Gangster Museum is an innovative project that aims to provide communities with access to information about alternative life paths.
The museum is both educational and inspirational. The curators are ex-offenders and the museum uses qualified tour guides to take guests through immersive text, imagery and a replica prison cell.
Focusing on accessibility, the tour fee you pay enables a local school child to visit the museum for free.
The museum holds workshops, installations and focus groups across the township and city as they aim to raise awareness about gangsterism, and help to steer youth towards a brighter future.
The Heart of Cape Town Museum honours the team who were responsible for the world’s first heart transplant on 3 December 1967, which took place in our city.
You will be taken on a two-hour, fully guided tour, and be told the story of the historic day, learning about the events that lead up to the transplant.
The Iziko Planetarium is an old favourite of our city, for both kids and adults alike. After undergoing a digital makeover, the planetarium boasts some of the most advanced digital facilities on the continent.
This is the perfect place where education and fun collide, as visitors can watch mesmerising images of the night sky while learning inspiring information at the same time.
The District Six Museum was established in 1994–an important political year in South Africa–and focuses on memories, stories and experiences to detail the community’s painful history of forced removals under apartheid.
Walking through the museum, you will learn about the area’s history and the personal histories of its people.
The work the museum has done assists in conversations around land restoration and healing, and has been so powerful that it was declared a National Heritage Site in 2006.
The Robben Island Museum is a World Heritage Site and takes guests on a tour of the Robben Island prison, the place to which freedom fighters and activists were sent during apartheid.
Guests are taken to the island via a ferry and get to learn more about the history of South Africa and the destruction of apartheid.
The museum uses the space to promote discussions and debate around painful history and also focuses on conserving the island’s natural and cultural resources.
The Castle of Good Hope is often on the list of places to visit, but less so is its Military Museum, which sits within the castle.
The museum takes you through South African military, and therefore political, history. Guests will hear historical accounts and see preserved artefacts, such as a sword collection, from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
The Military Museum teaches guests about the different South African wars and details the interactions between the Portuguese, Khoi, Dutch and English.
The South African Jewish Museum, where the country’s first synagogue sits, is a space dedicated to celebrating the heritage of Jewish people in South Africa and internationally.
Initially, the museum focused on Jewish people in the Cape, but they expanded over the years to include history and stories from across the country and the world.
One of the Iziko museums, the Bo-Kaap Museum serves to display the history of the neighbourhood in which it’s situated, also known as the Cape Malay Quarter.
Many residents are descended from enslaved individuals brought to the city forcibly in the 16th and 17th centuries from Malaysia, Indonesia, and other parts of the continent.
Unpacking this history, the Bo-Kaap Museum provides the space for people to learn and get a glimpse of what it was like for a typical Malay person and family further back in time.
The Slave Lodge is one of the city’s oldest buildings, but was only given that name in 1998. The building uses temporary exhibitions to prompt guests to engage with different human rights issues.
The galleries focus on slavery, as well as showcase ceramics and silverware from across the world.
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Picture: Unsplash

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